Friday, March 16, 2012

Pieces of the Puzzle

You probably know about the "yellow ribbon" loop worn to indicate support for soldiers and others in dangerous situations away from home. Perhaps you also know about the "red ribbon" loop for AIDS and the "pink ribbon" loop for breast cancer. What you may not know is that there is a whole rainbow of "awareness ribbons" representing support for every cause imaginable. A navy ribbon symbolizes human trafficking; an orange ribbon leukemia; a silver ribbon mental illness. (Among other things. Most colors have been appropriated by multiple causes; see Wikipedia for an extensive list.)

Particularly intriguing is the "puzzle ribbon" for autism, which comprises a pattern of assorted bright colors shaped like interlocked jigsaw puzzle pieces. According to the Autism Society, "The puzzle pattern reflects the mystery and complexity of the autism spectrum. The different colors and shapes represent the diversity of the people and families living with the condition. The brightness of the ribbon signals hope—hope that through increased awareness of autism, and through early intervention and appropriate treatments, people with autism will lead fuller, more complete lives."

Perhaps the "puzzle ribbon" should also signify the fallen human condition. In a sense, all of us have autism: not merely unwilling, but literally unable, to see past our own immediate desires and form an accurate picture of reality. Most jigsaw puzzle pieces, by themselves, show no more visible "picture" than does a quick paint smear from a brush touched to the palette at random: likewise with the individual events of our lives. Absorbed in each event as it happens, we frequently moan that life makes no sense.

Praise God, He gives us the brightness of hope through Jesus Christ, weaving our fragmented lives into a beautiful picture that we will ultimately see clearly. 

Strewn before the eyes in fragments--
Few make sense when viewed alone--
Each a different splotch of color,
Void of meaning in its tone.
Yet, with patient, careful working,
Slow but certain, wholeness grows,
Till, each piece at last positioned,
Then the final picture shows.

Human lives are ever splintered:
Things that happen, on their own,
Often splotched with pain and heartache,
Make small sense when viewed alone.
Yet, be patient with God's working,
As His purpose slowly grows,
Till your life, all things completed,
His eternal meaning shows!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Peace and Rest

This Lent, my home church is doing a sermon series on "Decisive Moments in the Life of Christ," which began last Sunday with "Birth" and used the text for the Annunciation. Therefore, this week's poem, which was written during Advent 2010, serves as a nod to my favorite fellowship as well as a reminder of what should be the spirit of Lent--slowing down a bit and giving God time to speak to us.

Though sometimes I wish it, few of us have the option of going into the wilderness for forty days as Jesus did. But we can declare a "wilderness time" of sorts in our daily life. I recently read an article, "A Desert Time or a Dry Season?," that cast beautiful light on what a Christian's "desert time" should be--not the desolation and deprivation most of us picture, but "a time of refreshing, a quiet season, a time that I came to know the still small voice of the Lord, and to recognize His voice from the voice of man and my own voice." If we can't get away physically from our ordinary lives, we at least can make a special effort to put aside most of the nonessentials, to cry out to God from the depths of our hearts, to seek out that special and sacred "prayer place" that may be waiting quietly to be discovered within easy walking distance. We can take extra prayer time for the express purpose of asking God to teach us to thirst for His Word and His presence above all material concerns.

As many a Southwesterner will testify, the desert can be a place of beauty as well as of mystery, awe, and--perhaps most important of all--peace and silence. It is in the wilderness that we find God's rest.

Life moves at a frantic pace,
Everything a speeding race;
Pounding hearts fill every chest:
Where can we find peace and rest?

In the world of Roman days,
Life, as now, had fretful ways:
Few did let their strivings cease
When the angels sang of peace.

Christ was born to bring us love,
Flowing pure from Heaven above:
Wise men traveling pathways west
Saw in Him true peace and rest.

From the Manger to the Cross,
Christ walked earth to seek the lost.
Now, as then, the eye that sees
Knows He is our Rest and Peace.